Kitsap Peninsula earthquake tests early warning system

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SEATTLE — The 4.2 magnitude earthquake that shook the Kitsap Peninsula Wednesday night allowed the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network (PNSN) at the University of Washington to test a new early warning system.

When fully operational, the ShakeAlert early-warning system would quickly detect an earthquake and alert people that shaking is coming through an app on their cellphone.

"In this earthquake, we could see the quake and tell it was going to be a magnitude 4 within six seconds of when it hit," said seismologist John Vidale. "Which means there was 10 or 15 seconds of warning we could have given the people in the Puget Sound."

Ten to 15 seconds doesn't sound like a lot, but Vidale said if people know an earthquake is coming they may be able to move away from bookshelves and overhead lamps or even turn off the stove.

Bigger actions can also be taken on a city and even state level.

"We can take steps like, slowing down trains, stopping airplanes, turning traffic lights yellow and red. Companies can protect their equipment and computer operations with even just a few seconds of warning," explained Vidale.

The early warning system was recently built and Vidale estimates that it could take up to two years to have the system fully functional.

More than 20 agencies and businesses are already connected to the system testing it for accuracy and reliability, reports the Kitsap Sun.

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